A new peach variety that requires less winter chilling will give growers in the southeastern lower coastal plain an edge — and consumers a more reliable supply — of early summertime peaches.
The new variety, called Gulfcrimson, was developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in cooperation with the University of Georgia and the University of Florida.
Gulfcrimson only requires 400 hours of chilling to flower and set fruit. By comparison, a commonly grown variety called June Gold requires 650 hours of chilling. However, in years of insufficient winter chilling, June Gold can't reliably set fruit, resulting in reduced crops for growers.
ARS Horticulturalist Thomas Beckman at the Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga., developed Gulfcrimson to overcome the problem, which has become worse in recent years as wintertime temperatures have tended to be warmer, with fewer chilling hours.
This peach will probably be used as a fresh market fruit, with substantial red skin blush over a deep yellow-to-orange ground color. The round-shaped peach has flesh that is firm and does not brown when bruised or cut. Gulfcrimson ripens from mid- to late-May, the same market period that June Gold typically filled.
Gulfcrimson was released in 2007 for grower trials, and budwood is being made available to nurseries for the production of trees this year. The first light crops of peaches should be available to consumers in 2011, with full crops by 2012.
ARS previously developed other Gulf series peaches — Gulfprince, Gulfking, and Gulfcrest — which now are all considered by nurserymen to be very reliable fruiting varieties.
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.